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As precision livestock systems develop, engaged workforce imperative

National Hog Farmer/Kevin Schulz Employee training is a continual process

One of the greatest challenges currently faced by the swine industry is not pigs, but humans, says Jonathon Hoek of Summit Precision Production, a division of Summit Livestock Facilities.

During the 50th annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Hoek shared his perspective, “HUMATEC: People – pigs – process – performance: creating the irresistible place to work,” introducing a new system that promises to create a significant paradigm shift in swine production.

“By establishing engaging lean processes and continuing improvement, SPP’s HUMATEC provides transformational step change in pig production,” Hoek says. “By factoring in the human element with the health, safety and well-being of the livestock, producers have the potential to provide an efficient, productive and ultimately more profitable delivery of protein.” 

The HUMATEC system is measurable, providing benchmarks critical to driving livestock producers’ strategies.

“The bottom line of the ledger speaks volumes. The cost of high turnover of employees alone has a dramatic effect. The cost on the health of the pigs is also measurable,” Hoek says. “Healthy pigs thrive better when cared for by satisfied and engaged humans working in their spaces.”

However people, pigs, process and performance are capable of being harmonized and optimized as a system, Hoek says.

“As we develop successful precision livestock ecosystems, an engaged and capable workforce is imperative to make disruptive change for the good of the animal and the people who care for them,” Hoek says. “The convergence of animal science, technology and human psychology will lead to protein production being an irresistible place to work.”

Summit Livestock Facilities is a pioneer in the development and construction of innovative protein-producing livestock facilities. The firm's facilities aim to do more than house animals, but also improve animal health and production, reduce operational inefficiencies, solve regulatory issues and alleviate social concerns. 

Source: Summit Livestock Facilities, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Farm Progress America, March 21, 2019

Max Armstrong shares news that Murray State University will become the home of the Center for Agricultural Hemp, which was approved by the state’s Board of Regents. Max offers a look at the many aspects of hemp and the hemp industry that this new center will facilitate.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: Arina_Bogachyova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Travelers need to beware, could be carrying African swine fever

Bill Oxford-Getty Images U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized over 660,000 kilograms in pork products in Fiscal Year 2018.

The USDA is now warning international travelers about the dangers of African swine fever, a disease they could unknowlingly bring back into the United States on their clothes, shoes or hands.

While ASF does not affect human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans, the recent spread of the disease to new countries in Asia and Europe has triggered a series of actions by USDA, State Agriculture Departments and the pork industry to bolster protections against ASF in the United States and keep ASF out of North America.

“ASF has never been detected in the United States,” says Greg Ibach, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, “but an outbreak here would not only affect the pork industry, but would have major impacts on trade and raise food prices for consumers. We are asking international travelers to help prevent the spread of ASF to the United States by understanding what products can be brought back into the United States, and declaring any agricultural items in their baggage.”

APHIS’ new traveler website provides updated information about potentially harmful pests and diseases that can hitchhike on food or other agricultural products. When returning to the U.S., travelers are reminded to declare food items and animal products in their luggage. Failure to declare items may result in serious penalties.

“USDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection recognize the crucial work of detector dog teams at U.S. ports of entry,” says Ibach, “While travelers’ declarations of any food products brought with them to the United States is a critical step to protecting U.S. agriculture, the dogs and secondary agricultural inspections provide another line of defense to keep ASF out of the country.”

Travelers will also see some changes at airports as USDA works with CBP to increase screenings of passenger baggage. This includes training and adding 60 additional beagle teams for a total of 179 teams working at key U.S. commercial, sea and air ports and ensuring travelers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection. USDA is also coordinating with CBP to expand arrival screenings, including checking cargo for illegal pork and pork products.

Anyone who visits a farm in an ASF-affected country should take specific precautions before returning to the United States. Follow the farm’s biosecurity protocols and wear site specific footwear and coveralls or clothing. Thoroughly clean and disinfect or dispose of clothes and footwear worn on the farm before returning, and declare the farm visit to CBP when re-entering the United States. Travelers should not visit farms or any other locations with pigs – including livestock markets, zoos, circuses and pet stores with pot-bellied pigs for at least five days after returning.

More information on ASF, partner resources and additional resources for travelers are available on the APHIS ASF webpage.

Source: USDA APHIS, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Don’t bank on China maybes

iStock/Getty Images Plus/takraw Risk management illustration

With 2018 in the books it’s evident it will go down as a year with more variability in earnings than I have ever seen. Producers had to manage through trade tariffs, health issues, labor concerns and very few opportunities to lock-in profits.

With that said, 2018 (with the exception of 2014) turned out to have the widest swing in profitability that I’ve seen in my 22 years in the industry. As you may remember, if you didn’t have any hedges in place in 2014, you likely averaged $50 plus per head profit for the year, depending on timing of sales. The same year, the Iowa State University model had profit per head at $56.96. According to our database, Compeer’s average producer had a profit of $39.14 in 2014, identifying a difference of $17.82 per head.

That difference pales in comparison to the 2018 numbers I’ve reviewed from operations across the U.S. Last year’s average profitability range is over $30. If you asked me today, I would estimate the average producer broke even to losing $5 per head in 2018. Keep in mind disease, hedging gains and base hog pricing made up the majority of the variance. Looking back, I remember in last April I talked to producers who had hedged hogs and thought he was going to have a very good April. That was before an extremely wide basis took away all profits. Based on that experience, it can give you cold feet when looking at risk management decisions for this year.

Opportunities for 2019
If you were aggressive, you probably have 40% to 60% of your hogs priced for 2019. If you missed those opportunities, the market rebounded nicely over the past six days. Looking at the nearby April contract, hogs ranged from a low of $52.25 on Feb. 20 to closing at $62.85 on March 11. That’s a $22 per head improvement in a very short period of time. Even with the improvement in the April contract, cutout is lagging only a $5.59 increase over the same timeframe or $11.74 per head. More importantly is the opportunity the deferred summer contracts are giving producers, with prices in the $80-plus range.

But, remember, it appears that China’s announcement of purchasing 200 metric tons of pork is definitely supporting the futures contracts and giving producers another chance to lock-in profits. I know everyone is counting on China to start buying U.S. pork, but are you willing to just wait and see if it will happen when you can lock-in a sure thing now? Think about revisiting this year’s risk management plan and take advantage of the recent news about China.

Pork Forum
Two weeks ago I was an acting delegate representing the Pork Alliance group at the Pork Forum for the National Pork Producers Council. The biggest news at the forum was the delegates approving an increase in the Strategic Investment Program rate from $0.10 per $100 of value to $0.20, effective July 1, 2021. I understand how difficult it is facing this increase coming off a less-than-stellar year. However, that’s one of the reasons the industry needs your support for this voluntary program. They are your voice in Washington, D.C.

Some of the highlights that the NPPC accomplished for all pork producers this past year include:

  • Obtaining mandatory funding for a vaccine bank included in the new farm bill.
  • Updating language for the new Waters of the U.S. rule to protect your interests,
  • Instrumental in getting a waiver for the need of an electronic logging device for truckers who haul livestock due to animal welfare concerns regarding issues with not delivering animals in a timely fashion.
  • Daily discussions on trade to make sure U.S. pork producers will have fewer tariffs, gate price requirements and barriers to trade in future trade agreements.

I encourage you to continue supporting this program or, if you haven’t in the past, please consider doing so. If you need additional information on the changes to the voluntary checkoff you can reach out to your state or national association for additional details.

Steve Malakowsky is a senior swine lending specialist, with over 21 years of experience at Compeer. For more insights from Malakowsky and the Compeer Swine Team, visit

Source: Steve Malakowsky of Compeer Financial, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Facial recognition technology aims to detect emotional state of swine

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The study sees pigs’ facial expressions analyzed using state-of-the-art 3D technology.

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology is being used in an attempt to detect different emotional states in swine, according to an announcement from Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).

Animal behaviorists at SRUC have teamed up with machine vision experts at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) for the study, which is hoped will lead to a tool that can monitor individual animals’ faces and alert farmers to any health and welfare problems, SRUC said.

Swine are highly expressive, and SRUC research has previously shown that they can signal their intentions to other pigs using different facial expressions. There is also evidence of different expressions when they are in pain or under stress, according to SRUC.

At SRUC’s Pig Research Centre in Midlothian, Scotland, scientists are capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population under various typical commercial situations that are likely to result in different emotional states. For example, sows can experience lameness and could show different facial expressions relating to pain before and after being given pain relief.

Detecting a positive emotional state is more novel, but sows are highly food motivated and appear calm and content when satiated, SRUC said, noting that the researchers hope this mood can be reflected in sows’ facial expressions.

Images are then processed at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, where various state-of-the-art machine learning techniques are being developed to automatically identify different emotions conveyed by particular facial expressions. After validating these techniques, the team will develop the technology for on-farm use with commercial partners where individual sows in large herds will be monitored continuously, the announcement said.

“Machine vision technology offers the potential to realize a low-cost, non-intrusive and practical means to biometrically identify individual animals on the farm. Our work has already demonstrated a 97% accuracy at facial recognition in pigs. Our next step will be, for the first time, to explore the potential for using machine vision to automatically recognize facial expressions that are linked with core emotion states, such as happiness or distress, in the identified pigs,” professor Melvyn Smith from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said.

Dr. Emma Baxter from SRUC added, “Early identification of pig health issues gives farmers the potential to improve animal well-being by tackling any problems quickly and implementing tailored treatment for individuals. This will reduce production costs by preventing impact of health issues on performance.

“By focusing on the pig’s face, we hope to deliver a truly animal-centric welfare assessment technique, where the animal can ‘tell’ us how it feels about its own individual experiences and environment. This allows insight into both short-term emotional reactions and long-term individual ‘moods’ of animals under our care,” Baxter said.

The study, which is being funded by the U.K.'s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, is also being supported by industry stakeholders JSR Genetics Ltd. and Garth Pig Practice as well as precision livestock specialists Agsenze.

Source: Scotland's Rural College, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Swine industry loses pioneer in modern pork production

drasa-GettyImages NHF-drasa-GettyImages-Obituary-1540.jpg

One of the founding members of the Pig Improvment Company and a long-time adviser to pork operations throughout Europe, North and South America and Asia passed away over the weekend. David Arthur Hollier died of an apparent heart attack on Saturday, March 16.

Hollier, who was with PIC for many years and helped start the PIC farm in Spring Green, Wis. (now The Hanor Company), was known for his boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm. He had an outstanding talent for attracting and teaching people on many levels, from raw recruits to seasoned investors. 

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Alwyn Woolley, one of the founders of PIC, wrote the following tribute about Hollier:

David was a well-known figure in the pig industry worldwide.

He originally came to Pig Improvement Company at Fyfield Wick in what was then Berkshire in the very early days to help with the straw harvest. However, the idea of going back to Reading to do his Masters was nowhere so exciting as tackling the challenges and opportunities facing this fledgling company and he quickly reappeared to stay, working for the company for many years in England and the United States.

David lived with the Woolley family in the farmhouse at Fyfield Wick for frequent periods and it was not uncommon to come down at 6.30 in the morning to find him sitting at the kitchen table, scribbling awkwardly away left handed at one of his instruction manuals on the finer points of modern pig production, entertaining illustrated books which conveyed detailed practical information.

His boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm made him successful in setting up new pig farms and units. He had an outstanding talent for attracting, teaching and entertaining people on many levels, from raw young recruits to seasoned investors.

His legacy is a network of pig producers from Europe to Australia, China to South America.

Outside of work he was a complete maverick; his lifestyle and ability to surprise and entertain are legendary, from travelling the world with his belongings in a paper carrier bag to sitting up virtually all night playing scrabble. He was renowned for his ability to sleep anywhere such as on an office floor with his head under the air conditioner. Evenings in his company at the pub were lengthy and hugely entertaining.

David’s book, “Aspect of Swine Ecology” has been translated into many languages and for many years has been the standard tool for training in farms.

David will be remembered with gratitude and great affection by people worldwide.

MORNING Midwest Digest, March 20, 2019

Flooding across the Heartland is unimaginable, spanning many states.

A jury has found that a man developed cancer from exposure to Roundup weed killer he used in his yard.

A Des Moines sports radio host was killed yesterday, along the side of the road.

In Minnesota, homeowners who replace lawns with bee-friendly plants could get assistance from the state.


Photo: JasonDoiy/Getty Images

Farm Progress America, March 20, 2019

Max Armstrong shares the response from the meat industry to news that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing a Meatless Monday program in city schools. The push on plant-based diets comes from several quarters and claims made include “better health” and being more “green” for the planet. There are concerns about the nutritional impact on school lunches.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Image: Sudowoodo/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Study finds antibiotic concerns may be driving meatless movement

Study finds antibiotic concerns may be driving meatless movement

According to new research from The Center for Food Integrity, online engagement about antibiotic resistance is growing rapidly and could be one of a growing number of factors that is driving consumers to reduce or eliminate meat from their diets.

Antibiotic resistance results when bacteria change in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of drugs – leading to the rise of “superbugs” that are difficult to treat. There currently are more than 34-million consumers actively engaging on the topic and it’s gaining traction, as shown by CFI’s Illuminate digital research that analyzes millions of interactions online in real time.

“The research indicates that number could increase to more than 65 million within the next two years,” says Terry Fleck, CFI executive director. “That’s a 92% increase.”

Engaging on antibiotic resistance is one thing; the behaviors that result is another.

Consumers most interested in the topic, according to the research profile, are white, educated, middle-class females between the ages of 25 and 40 who want to be viewed as responsible and compassionate and will adjust their way of living according to what they believe is environmentally sustainable.

“While they view protein as an important part of a balanced diet and consume meat, milk and eggs,” says Fleck, “the research shows they’ll consider going meatless due to concerns that livestock production practices, including the use of antibiotics, are not responsible and environmentally sustainable.”

This type of consumer wants to be considered a good provider for herself and her family and believes her purchasing decisions can drive positive change. As a result, she may be more apt to purchase organic products, go meatless or consider new meat alternatives, said Fleck.

In addition, she often goes online for recommendations from like-minded peers about her food choices.

The research reveals the motivations, fears and beliefs about antibiotic resistance and identifies influencers and preferred brands of engaged consumers – providing a roadmap to understanding where to find them and how best to engage to earn trust.

“With engagement on this issue expected to grow dramatically in the next 24 months, it’s an important time to get involved in the conversation,” Fleck said. “And engaging with interested consumers with content that reflects their values, beliefs and attitudes is important.”  

Consumers don’t simply want information, “they want to know that you care about the same things they do, like safe food, and high standards in animal care and environmental sustainability,” he says.

Source: The Center for Food Integrity, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Smithfield recognized for zero-waste-to-landfill initiative, SAP integration

Smithfield Foods Smithfield Foods donates $50,000 to North Carolina FFA.

The National Association of Manufacturers has recognized Smithfield Foods with two 2019 Manufacturing Leadership Awards for its zero-waste-to-landfill initiative and SAP technology integration project. The prestigious awards honor projects and leaders that shape the future of global manufacturing.

“Recognition for these projects goes to the more than 54,000 Smithfield family members whose continuous commitment to innovation keeps us at the forefront of our industry,” says Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield Foods. “The high-caliber of work delivered by our employees enables Smithfield to continue to fulfill our mission to produce good food in a responsible way.”

Smithfield’s zero-waste-to-landfill initiative, which encourages the company’s domestic facilities to meet a rigorous set of criteria to eliminate waste sent to landfill, was recognized with a Manufacturing Leadership Award. This program results in reduced waste disposal costs, additional revenue from selling recyclables, and decreased pollution, contributing to the company’s goals to reduce waste to landfills 10% by 2020 and greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025.

“This initiative has improved our business operations and, at the same time, reduced our environmental impacts,” says Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods. “I am extremely proud of the members of the Smithfield Family involved in this project for the incredible work they are doing to meet and exceed our aggressive sustainability goals and targets, earning recognition from across the manufacturing industry.”

Smithfield’s SAP technology integration project earned a Manufacturing Leadership Award for successfully integrating and streamlining the global food company’s business functions under one operating system, which drives efficiencies and enhances performance across all plants and production lines. Smithfield’s modernization of its infrastructure and harmonization of business applications also increases visibility of the company’s performance and customer orders and optimizes its manufacturing processes.

“Our SAP integration project has allowed us to optimize our business processes and operate on one system, as one company, while gaining greater visibility into all aspects of our business,” says Julia Anderson, global chief information officer for Smithfield Foods. “We are continuously evaluating and leveraging emerging technologies to transform our business. Through this One SAP implementation, our employees utilized technological innovations to improve the way Smithfield interacts with customers and provides high-quality food to consumers.” 

Smithfield will be recognized at the 15th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Awards Gala, which will be held on the last day of the Manufacturing Leadership Summit, June 10-12, at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Source: Smithfield Foods, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.